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Preventing Bacterial Vaginosis With Diet

In the same way fermented pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut foster the growth of good bacteria by maintaining an acidic environment, so does the human vagina. The normal pH of one’s vagina is that of tomato juice. However, once it starts creeping up to that of coffee, an overgrowth of bad bacteria can take hold and cause bacterial vaginosis, which affects an astounding 29 percent of American women (nearly 1 in 3). That makes it the most frequent cause of vaginal complaints among younger women. It’s commonly diagnosed with the so-called Whiff Test, where the doctor takes a whiff of the vaginal discharge, sniffing for the characteristic fishy odor.

The fishy odor is a consequence of a compound of decay called putrescine, which is also found in certain foods. More about these “biogenic amines” in:

Traditional risk factors for bacterial vaginosis include douching, which has also been associated with a wide range of problems. With no demonstrable benefits and considerable evidence of harm, douching should be strongly discouraged. Medical professionals need to clearly explain to women that the vagina is naturally self-cleaning.

Nasal douching, though, is another matter entirely. See The Risks and Benefits of Neti Pot Nasal Irrigation and my answer about the “brain-eating amoeba.”

Recently, poor nutrition has been added to the list of risk factors for bacterial vaginosis. You appear more likely to get bacterial vaginosis if you have lower circulating levels of phytonutrients like vitamin C and beta carotene in your bloodstream—indicating a lower intake of fruits and vegetables. In recent years, though, the field of nutrition has shifted toward examining overall dietary scores as opposed to single nutrients, because it has become recognized that nutrients are not consumed in isolation. To help consumers eat healthier foods, nutrient-rich food indices have been devised. Using these indices, researchers have found that the more nutrient rich one’s diet, the lower one’s apparent risk for bacterial vaginosis.

Why might a healthier diet improve vaginal health? Researchers suggest that high fat intake, particularly saturated fat may increase vaginal pH, thereby increasing the risk of bacterial vaginosis. Most saturated  fat in the American diet comes from dairy, desserts, and chicken. The researchers conclude: “The next steps ahead include sharing these findings with gynecologists, obstetricians, and general practitioners, as well as increasing the awareness of the general community to the importance of optimal nutrition… to prevent infections of the genital tract, reduce associated disease, and maintain reproductive health.”

More on the detrimental effects of saturated fat in videos such as:

More on vaginal health in Treating Genital Warts With Green Tea and more on achieving maximum nutrient density in Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Related:
What Should Women Eat to Live Longest?
Treating PMS with Saffron
How Diet Can Help Relieve Breast Pain

Read more: Health, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Videos, Women's Health, , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

68 comments

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8:13PM PDT on Sep 6, 2013

I happy I have never had this . I found it to be a little bit of good information to know/the video helped. I tend to get many infections all over my body due to a poor immune systen and health issues in general. I do believe diet plays a lot to do with a huge amount of health issues. Stress also.

TY!!

11:04AM PDT on Aug 30, 2013

Thanks for sharing

2:40AM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

Not to mention asparagus, Magdalen B.

12:02PM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

Or one might have eaten fish. I notice the smelly wee after eating fish.

8:57PM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

TY

8:13PM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

Beautiful and useful article. I came across another one that talks about this. I recommend you http://nut.bz/tfwt43mm/

8:13PM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

Divan i koristan clanak. Ja sam naisla na jos jedan koji govori o ovome. Preporucujem vam http://nut.bz/tfwt43mm/

8:39AM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

ok thanks

6:45PM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

Thanks for the information.

2:59PM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

interesting; never thought about it, but it makes sense.

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